Most of my time is spent caring for needy animals in Mahajanga. Though most of them have “owners,” many of the owners are extremely poor and can barely afford to feed their own families, so the animals just get leftovers, which, in Madagascar, usually means just rice. The malnutrition among humans is bad enough, but amongst animals (mostly dogs), it’s far worse.
Semi-weekly Animal Feedings
At least twice each week, I make up buckets full of healthy, protein rich dog food and hand deliver it to the dozens of dogs and cats in my care. This food starts off with white rice (a Madagascar staple – no other nation eats more rice per capita than Madagascar), then I add in fresh fish I buy from our many fish markets, then fry it briefly, and chop it up for the “goulash.” Next, I add in a few boiled eggs, then a few large cans (1240 grams) of canned dog food (beef, chicken), and to finish it off, I grate in a few carrots, just for the nutritional value. And for the cats, I give each of them a raw fish.
Dogs in many developing nations aren’t treated very well, and Madagascar is no exception. In some parts of this island, dogs are utterly reviled, hunted down and killed on sight, but in sunny Mahajanga, the mood is decidedly different. Though many children are taught to fear and hate dogs, there are thousands of dog lovers here, and even stray dogs, if feared, are rarely abused or killed. And like everything, there are exceptions to this rule, too, and it’s not uncommon for a jealous neighbor to poison a nearby dog that is being treated well. When I go out to do my rounds, I make it a point to befriend many of the neighbors, explaining what I do, where I’m from, my love of all animals, and my offer to help if needed.
FREE Veterinary Care
Feeding the dogs healthy food is a good start, but I provide far more than just healthy food a few times per week. Working with several veterinarians in Mahajanga, I also provide free medical care, including:
- Birth Control – Depo Provera shots are given to bitches of childbearing age twice yearly
- Vaccines – Rabies vaccines are given to roaming male dogs
- Well Dog Meds – Including vitamins, dewormers, and anti-flea/tick meds
- Minor Surgeries – Procedures which can be done in the field, requiring no general anesthesia
- Monthly flea/tick drops – We buy these from a veterinary store in Tana several times per year, each dosage lasts 30 days and costs 30,000 Ariary (about $8.00). There are a few longhaired dogs that are tick magnets and no amount of monthly injections will work, so I use topical flea/tick drops with them.
- Mange treatments – Currently, the only mange treatment we have is monthly injections from one of the vets, but when I worked with dogs in Belize, I used Amitraz, which is an acid diluted in water, and it worked extremely well, one treatment per week for 3-4 weeks and the mange was gone. I’m trying to source a similar product here.
- Rehoming – Normally with puppies, but if an owner is unable to care for a pet and asks for my help, I will bring the pet home and foster it until I can find it a new forever home. Puppies are a constant struggle to find placement, but thankfully, my Facebook friends/family have stepped up, spreading the word, and I’ve successfully placed dozens of “extra” puppies in the past two years.
- Owner Education – Bringing the vet in to speak with owners, in their native language (which I have yet to master) is an excellent service I provide. Many owners just don’t know, and don’t know what to ask. My primary veterinary provide, Mr. Solofo (soo-LOO-foo) is extremely thorough, anticipates questions, and leaves the owners feeling empowered and willing to follow our suggestions to better care for their animals.